The Importance of Lighting for Viewing Art

Lighting can change the appearance of paintings more than you might expect.  Not just paintings, but any surface color can be shifted by changing light.  I am reminded of a time I was picking colors for a sticker design and I chose a red-orange instead of the cherry-red the client wanted. The evening light through my old apartment drapes affected my choice. Little to say, I had to make a quick reorder of stickers for that client.  When I moved into this new house, the room designated for the studio was painted garishly orange.  I decided to take a week to repaint the whole room, about 420 square feet of space, because I wanted to have a neutral color experience.  

I have two lamps that I have been using for photography that I started using to supplement light in the middle of the studio.  I have about as many windows as the rental studio on 4th Ave had, but the room is bigger, and the windows are spread around both sides of the room, so it is nice to have a supplemental lamp in the center.  The lamp has a toggle control that switches it from warm to cool light, and you can see how the painting shifts in color.  I have added a video to this blog for you to see this effect. It makes you realize how important correct lighting is for displaying paintings, and is something that should be considered when creating and installing art.

How I’ve Been Using My DJI Mavic Mini Drone

Last year at the end of December I purchased a drone.  This is my second one — Maria got me a “starter” drone for my birthday a year ago, which I didn’t crash, but caused to quit working due to a software malfunction that I could not fix.  It was a cool present, but it didn’t have the camera I was looking for.  I was glad to pick up a DJI Mavic Mini from Costco.  It’s really easy to use, and small enough that you can easily put it into a backpack to take places. It connects to your smartphone, and uses a joystick control that I had already became familiar with on the first drone, and a previous toy helicopter I used to crash into the ceiling and floor a lot.  The drone is great, because it allows me to take pretty high quality aerial photography and videos that I would never be able to get otherwise.  Drones are like ATV’s — they are annoying to people who do not have them, but are incredibly useful.  Everyone is imagining that they are being surveilled, with highly detailed photos captured of them, but you have to push the shutter button to take a picture, or to record a video. This particular drone does not have a zoom lens, so seeing who is in the photographs is actually difficult, unless I fly the drone up really, really close.  I use it mostly to take pictures of people’s cabins in McCarthy (with their permission) and to get cool shots from angles impossible to get otherwise.  

I had a great time at my friend Bob Cook’s cabin when he invited a group of people over on a hot day for a swimming party in his pond.  The shots from the air turned out really neat, and I had a good time chasing kids around the pond.  

The DJI Mavic Mini has a pretty short range — about 200 meters.  I think it would be a lot cooler to get one that can go a bit farther. My next drone will definitely have a longer range, but for now I am having a blast getting aerial shots with the one I have. I took a bunch of pics of Arctic Valley Ski Area, which I am going to reference while creating a new trail map of the mountain.  

I had always wanted to get into flying drones, and I love flying this one. I’m sure it is just one of many I will own in the future.  A drone is a great tool for an artist to have in his/her quiver of image-gathering devices.  Cheers to flying remotely! I hope you enjoy the pics and videos I made with my flying camera.

Drone footage of brave souls kayaking and rafting the Kennicott River during Jökulhlaup
Bob and Sunny Cook’s Cabin in McCarthy, Alaska
Nancy Cook’s Cabin in McCarthy, Alaska
Our cabin
Me standing on the bridge across Kuskulana River on the McCarthy Road
After a dinner party at the Rice’s cabin in McCarthy, Alaska

“The First Thing You’re Going to Paint is the Walls!”

As you may have read in the previous post, we bought a house, and combined our living and working space, so we moved out of the studio on 4th Ave. As you can imagine, I haven’t been able to get much work done, because I’ve been spending all my time moving, shopping for furniture, and spending three relaxing days in Cordova to celebrate Maria’s birthday. One of our friends came over to check out the new house, and when she saw my studio downstairs, she said, “The first thing you’re going to paint is the walls!” The previous owner had quite a festive taste, and painted the large room downstairs in three different shades of orange. So, yesterday I began the long process of covering up the orange paint. I worked on one painting right when I moved in, because it had to be done by a deadline, and the light in that room was really screwed up because of the bright orange. I felt like the greens in the painting turned out weird, because the room was playing tricks on my eyes. So, before I do any more painting, I’m covering the walls with pure white primer. I’m on the second coat, and I think it will take three coats!!! So, if you need me, you know where I’ll be for the next few days — painting the walls in my new studio.

If you think this is bad, check out the next photo.
It looks brighter IRL!

By the way, our condo is on the market. Click here to check out the listing.

We Bought a House and Moved out of the 4th Avenue Market Place Studio!

Moving everything from the studio to the new house, including large paintings. Good thing it wasn’t raining!

When we moved into my studio space at the 4th Avenue Marketplace, we were ecstatic to be downtown, and to have extra work space!  I loved the view, and I loved working there.  Having people come by for open studio events during First Fridays, Fur Rondy, and the Iditarod was always a great experience, and we usually made enough money during those events to cover our lease payments. Making the move to 4th Ave really cemented that I am a professional artist.  However, I missed working at home. Packing a lunch was a drag, the bicycle commute across downtown was annoying (especially in winter), and the local street people seemed to always be present to greet me at the door to the building (when they were awake).  I always seemed to have left this tool here, or that tool there, right when I needed it, and I was making another traffic-heavy bike trip back to one of the two locations.    

I am happy to say that last weekend we moved out of the studio, and I am setting up my new studio on the first floor of our new house! It is a huge mess right now! I need permanent storage for tools, supplies, and paintings. I hope to be back to work by Monday, taking a week to move the condo and studio to our new house, and to get the condo ready for sale!  The house is “not perfect,” as my father told me, but to us it is so amazing!  It is quiet at night, there is more space for living and for the studio, and best of all, it has an oversized two car garage!  No more carrying the table saw down stairs to work in blizzards for me!  I can park my truck inside when it is cold out! Not to mention, the obvious home-brewing improvement!  I brought my big smoker grill home from my parents’ house, and I’m going to smoke a brisket when I have everything set up. When brew day rolls around in the new garage, I’ll brew a big batch for a big housewarming celebration.  

Until then there is a lot of work… Anybody want a cute little apartment-style condo in West Fairview? It would make a great Airbnb rental!

Cheers to making life better!  May your day be brighter today than yesterday, and tomorrow be even better than that!    

Sad the downtown studio is closed?  You can still meet me for a beer at Midnight Sun Brewing. My art is there until the end of June!  I will be having more out-of-the studio shows, so keep following Real Art Is Better on this blog, or on social media and we will keep you informed where and when we will be having in-person events!

“Oh Geez, Rick!” – Morty

“Oh Geez, Rick”,  is a painting I made because I am a home-brewer and a huge fan of the show Rick and Morty.  Every home-brewer loves to brew in the garage. Since I don’t have one, I decided to pretend to have the most amazing garage ever, Rick’s garage from the show.  Every time I make a batch of beer, I pitch the yeast into a big glass fermenter like the one pictured here in Rick’s garage laboratory.  I always think about the life that is being cultivated inside the glass universe in the carboy.  Sealed with an airlock to keep the culture clean, it reminds me of our planet.  We are like the yeast, and the wort (unfermented beer) is like our natural resources.  As the yeast bubbles, and ferments the wort into beer, it is like our planet living out its days.  Once in a while I will double down on a batch of beer and pour fresh wort into the leftover yeast slurry from a previous batch. When I do this, I think how awesome it would be if we were able to buy more time for humanity on planet Earth by just brewing up some more clean air, water, and sunlight.  

The lifespan of any life-form is limited by its resources.  So my question is: if the planet is like a beer fermenter and the garage is like space outside our universe, is there some giant being that wants to eat all our garbage and breath our CO2 to catch a relaxing buzz?  Rick would know, he probably was teasing it with his portal gun.  

Cheers to life! Although it may be fleeting, make sure it is a fun ride!

This original oil painting, and signed art prints are available at my Etsy shop. You can see this painting in person at my art show at Midnight Sun Brewing Co. June 4 – July 1, 2021. I will kick off the show this Friday at 5pm by tapping a pin (small keg) of a wit beer with key-lime, cask-conditioned on Madagascar and Tahitian vanilla beans and graham crackers!

“Oh geez, Rick!” 11″ x 14″, oil on panel

The Audio Books That Keep Me Sane While I’m Painting

Sometimes making oil paintings is quick, exciting, and requires a ton of attention to specific actions. Then there are times I am painting blades of grass, or needles on spruce trees for hours.  Planning and making compositional sketches for paintings, or researching reference material and historical documents requires my complete attention, and I actually prefer silence, like at a library. When I am applying hundreds of brush strokes to a large area on a painting, I need something to help make the job more interesting.  Sometimes I listen to music, which I think is a pretty common thing for an artist to do while painting.  I think people imagine artists sitting back, working late into the evening, listening to music and sipping on wine while we work.  I actually listen to Learn in Your Car Russian language lessons for an hour, and then normally switch to audiobooks that I check out from the Alaska Digital Library. Also, most of the time I drink water at work. 

If you have a library card from UAA, or the Anchorage Public Library, you just have to download the Overdrive app for your phone, or computer. I spend hours a day painting, and I tear through books series.  My genre of choice is science fiction and fantasy.  Sometimes I discover a book series that I love, and I listen to the books over and over, up to as many as five times before I am through.  Since I am painting while I listen to the books, I tend to miss important parts while concentrating on the painting more than the book.

I have compiled a list of books series I consider worth listening to more than once: 

JK Rowling – Harry Potter series

Lois McMaster Bujold – Vorkosigan series

Lois McMaster Bujold – World of the 5 Gods series

Lois McMaster Bujold – Penric and Desdemona series

Patricia C Wrede – The Enchanted Forest Chronicles

Jim C. Hines – Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse series

Christopher Paolini – Inheritance Cycle

Marissa Meyer – The Lunar Chronicles

Becky Chambers – Wayfarer’s series

Alex White – The Salvager’s series

James S. A. Corey – The Expanse series

I started listening to Harry Potter, and although I have read the books many times, having them read to you is special. If you haven’t done that, you should really get on the waiting list and listen to them–it’s really great.

If you have kids, and you want to entertain them in the car on a long drive, Patricia C Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles is amazing.  Although, this series is designed for children, it is really entertaining and super fun to listen to. I like the full cast audio production.

An author I really love is Lois McCaster Bujold. Nobody I know has read her books, but there are over 30 of these highly enjoyable tales. I absolutely love the 17.5 books that make up the Vorkosigan Space Opera.  I have been wanting to discuss the stories with someone, but nobody else has read, er…listened to them. Please spend the next six months reading these books, so you and I can have a conversation about them!!!

Most recently I have been reading James S. A. Corey’s Expanse series.  There is also a TV series that is based on the books on Amazon Prime.  I like both the books and the TV series. The TV series is like watching a really long movie that just keeps going from one cliffhanger to another.

Cheers to books on “tape”! They have been keeping me sane and at work for about seven years now!   

First Friday Art Show at Turnagain Brewing Co.

Tomorrow we’ll be hanging an art show at Turnagain Brewing Co. before the brewery opens. We’ll also get to hang out at the brewery and drink beer during the First Friday art opening from 5pm – 8pm. If you can stop by, I’ll be happy to see you! I can’t believe I get to drink beer and talk to friends for my job!  I have had dozens of art shows, but for some reason I still get a bit of an adrenaline rush every time I walk in.   

Turnagain Brewing is one of our favorite small craft breweries here in Anchorage.  Dr. Ted Rosenzweig has done an amazing job with some of his unique beers from the sour side of the brewery. I really love drinking the Framb Was, a raspberry sour.  I pretty much order a glass of it every time I visit.  Turnagain also does a really good job in the “clean” side of the brewery, or the “non wild yeast” side. The Blanca, a Belgian wit beer, is really well brewed, and I think it is the best example of the style in Alaska. It’s Maria’s go-to beer when we go to the brewery together.

Some of the paintings have been shown before, but never in this specific grouping.  I really like the way Ted built the hanging system on the walls, it makes putting a show together really straightforward and easy.  There will be 14 original oil paintings in total, as well as a selection of limited-edition prints, a few of which are about to become sold out!

I look forward to seeing you, if you can make it! The city has lifted all restrictions, so there is more capacity inside the brewery, but there is also an outdoor beer garden. Bring your masks, they are still mandatory indoors in Anchorage!  Cheers!

Click on the image to see the event on Facebook.

Spring is in the Air!

You can smell spring in the air!  That means pollen, dust, dog poop, and lots of muddy puddles here in Anchorage, Alaska.  This is the time of year when I start to really miss our cabin in McCarthy, and looking forward to escaping there.  We’re planning to head out there the day after Mother’s Day. That’s right, you still have a little time to order a present for your mom, before May 9th!  I’ve gone to MXY (the airport code for McCarthy) earlier in the year, but the driveway to our cabin gets really swampy during meltdown, so I’ve found it’s better to wait until the second week of May. This year will be especially swampy, considering the heavy amount of snow. I hope the wood shed is still standing! On big snow years, piles of snow are still sitting around through Memorial Day weekend!

I love the first trip in spring to the cabin, because we no longer have to do too much building, mostly just opening up the cabin, setting up the rain-catchment system, and seeing my MXY friends. I always bring my painting supplies with me, so I can keep working in my little studio out there, which was formerly our shelter while we worked on the cabin. This year I hope to go on a couple over-night backpacking trips into the National Park, and plant a big garden. My mother-in-law came to visit last year, and decided that we needed a garden, so she ripped out a lot of bushes, and cleared a nice spot for it. Then I cut down a few trees, tore out the stumps, and rototilled the dirt. We just need to build a fence to keep the critters out, and then we can plant the seed potatoes we’ve been saving all winter, and the little starts that are growing nicely in our condo right now.

Summer isn’t even here, and I’m already planning out the entire season. We all kind of go nuts here in Alaska in the summer with all this daylight. Here’s hoping for plenty of sunny days, but also enough rain to keep the forest fires at bay.

Brand new leaves on the aspen trees on our property.

The Secret Ingredient in Pliny the Younger Triple IPA is Revealed

An anonymous source recently revealed to me that he found out the secret ingredient that makes Pliny the Younger Triple IPA taste so amazing! He requested that I do not reveal his name, because he doesn’t want to be banned from Russian River Brewing for disclosing this information. He was lucky enough to score a permit to Yosemite National Park during Feb. 12-24, when the phenomenon known as “Firefall” occurs. During this time of year only, and during just the right time at sunset, the sun hits the water of Horsetail Falls just right, making the waterfall look like bright red flowing lava! After taking many pictures, he looked down at the bottom of the waterfall and saw something very strange. There was a man filling large containers from the waterfall! He couldn’t believe his eyes! So, he had to find out why the man was doing this, and walked over to talk to him. Turns out, the man was one of the brewers at Russian River Brewing, and he needed the water from that waterfall just at that precise time when it looks like lava, in order to brew Pliny the Younger according to the super secret recipe. We are all in shock that the man shared this sensitive information with my friend, but since that water is so difficult to find, this beer recipe is incredibly hard to duplicate. So, next time you enjoy a sip of that delicious IPA, just remember that it was brewed with extremely rare water from a phenomenon that only happens for two weeks once a year at one of the world’s most beautiful places! That really explains why Pliny the Younger tastes so incredible! This story inspired me to paint this new beer painting of Pliny the Younger in front of the “Firefall”.

This original oil painting, and signed art prints are available at my Etsy shop.

Pliny the Younger Triple IPA in front of “Firefall” in Yosemite National Park. 11″x14″, oil on panel.

Pelican Brewing in Pacific City, Oregon

During my college days, studying art at Western Oregon University, located in Monmouth, Oregon, I spent a lot of time at the local bike shop.  The shop was really cool! Located in a former gas station, it barely had enough space inside to store all the bikes.  It was called Jon’s Bicycle Station. I met Jon the first day I arrived in Monmouth.  The town wasn’t really that big, and I was, and still am, bicycle crazy.  We became great friends!  The shop was so cool, because Jon made it that way.  Since he worked 6 days a week, and home-brewed every Sunday, we would ride every Tuesday at nighttime. We used powerful headlamps to go way up into the mountains, then turn them off and gaze at the stars. The rides were great, sometimes 23 miles long, and often just Jon and I.  We would always meet at the shop, do a quick tune to the bikes, then have espressos, and load the bikes into his old 1970’s Ford F-250, driving a few miles to the logging area on the east side of the coastal range. After the ride Jon pulled out homemade burritos from an insulated cooler where he kept them warm.  These were my favorite times in the Willamette Valley area.  

My grandmother is from Newberg, Oregon, just up Route 99W from Monmouth. When I was a child, the whole family would often fly down from Alaska to meet up with the rest of the clan at the Oregon coast for a family get-together. We would normally stay in a rental house at Rockaway Beach, so I was no stranger to the Oregon coast. I think it is a really beautiful place on this planet! When Jon invited me to go to Pacific City to ride bikes and celebrate New Years Eve in a big rental house, I jumped at the chance. He would always get these incredible houses and invite all his riding buddies. Since I was a broke college student he didn’t ask much from me. I just had to show up and go for long road rides on Highway 101. Afterwards we would go to the Pelican Brewing brewpub. One time for spring break, Jon got this amazing house directly on the beach in Pacific City. It had a hot tub and a sauna, and 17 beds! The bunk room was impressive, with two levels of stacked beds with room for everyone. My roommate at the time brought his girlfriend’s whole family! We filled that house! I remember running to the ocean from the hot tub — it was so awesome! The Pelican Brewing brewpub was only about 1/2 mile down the beach from that house. Back in the day, the brewery only bottled beers in bombers. I remember buying as many as I could afford and taking them back for a big beach fire party! I did a couple of paintings at that house. The place was called the Wind Jammer on the rental listings. I don’t know if you can still rent it, but I do recommend getting some Pelican beers and walking down the beach!

Nowadays, the Pelican has a production facility in Tillamook, and the beers come in huge cans, six-packs, and still a few 22oz bombers.  It’s not quite the same, but my love for Pacific City is still strong.  If you happen to be in the area, the Grateful Bread Bakery is a good breakfast place, just get there early, as the cinnamon buns are all gone if you sleep in!  Haystack Rock, and  Cape Kiwanda Dune are really cool local geological features making this place stand out!  I heard the surfing is as good as Oregon has to offer.

Cheers to Pacific City, The Pelican Brewpub, Jon’s Bicycle Station, and the Oregon Coast! You don’t have to go to Hawaii to have a great time on the beach!

This original oil painting, and signed prints are available at my Etsy shop.

Pelican Brewing IPA, 11″x14″, oil on panel